By Kendall McElroy
Many that have frequent access to social media platforms and the internet have most likely been exposed to BetterHelp, an online therapy service that markets itself as a more convenient, and cost-effective way to attain psychological help. On the surface, BetterHelp presents itself as a cutting-edge, modern version of typical talk therapy, only more accessible to the general public. Despite this convincing front, BetterHelp has recently come under fire for dubious business practices, including, but not limited to, improper vetting of BetterHelp therapists, selling patient information to third-party companies, and deceiving clientele into thinking their services equate to face to face therapy.
BetterHelp prides itself on being able to provide licensed professionals and experts on mental health to assist in issues such as “such as stress, anxiety, relationships, parenting, depression, addictions, eating, sleeping, trauma, anger, family conflicts, LGBT matters, grief, religion [or] self esteem.” However, a closer look at the website’s FAQ and terms of service paint a different picture. “While we may try to do so from time to time, in our sole discretion, you acknowledge that we do not represent to verify, and do not guarantee the verification of, the skills, degrees, qualifications, licensure, certification, credentials, competence or background of any Counselor,” reads the terms of service. It goes on to explain that the responsibility of vetting a counselor falls on the individual.
In light of this, BetterHelp CEO, Alon Matas, took to Reddit to defend his counseling alternative, saying, “You are welcomed to go to our provider directory and see the credentials and licensing information of each one of our providers. If you find a single counselor who is currently active on the platform but isn’t a qualified professional, I will personally donate $500 to a charity of your choice … I respect everyone’s opinions and am happy to truly listen and learn. This is the opposite from PR.”
Another concern brought up from therapists outside of BetterHelp’s business believes that the company shortchanges its employees. The typical hourly rate for a typical therapy session is upwards of $100 an hour, while BetterHelp therapists average out at around $30 an hour. Moreover, BetterHelp pays its employees using a set word count per text session. This can then foster an environment of resentment between client and therapist, putting the therapist in the position of having to choose to extend their services for free, or stop replying.